Archive for July, 2012

I Wrote a Poem!

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Random stuff, Uncategorized

A dour young poet named Cassie
Considered convention quite passe
She thought meter and rhyme
Were both past their prime
For of what use are bourgeois poetic conventions when humanity is foundering in a morass of existential despair?

Here I am at “Horrible Saturday” — an annual event at the York Emporium in York, Pa., that showcases horror authors. I talk to Robert Ford, Jack Nemo, Kelli Owen, Mary SanGiovanni and Chet Williamson. By the way, the event itself was great. I’m a horror fan myself, so it was nice being around a bunch of people who share my enthusiasm for the topic. Sure, there are lots of horror conventions. But this was different from a lot of them in that it was first and foremost a literary event. For me, the high point was hearing Chet Williamson read one of his short stories. He’s an excellent writer and a lot of fun to talk to. Come to think of it, that description fits all of the writers in this video. Take a look.

Some sad news today. Donald J. Sobol, author of the “Encyclopedia Brown” books, passed away July 11 at the age of 87.

I was reminiscing with some friends on Facebook about how much we used to love those books, and one friend of mine in his 20s had no idea what we were talking about. Encyclopedia Brown was a 10-year-old detective who sometimes solved crimes for the other kids. Other times, the police would bring him in for his expertise, because … hey … why the hell not?

And the gimmick was that Sobol would reveal a clue at some point in the story that would incriminate the culprit. Like — OK, I’m just making this up here — there’d be a stolen ring. And the police would be interviewing the suspect, who says she couldn’t POSSIBLY have stolen the ring because she was inside doing the dishes for the past hour when the theft occurred. And she’d show off her smooth hands to demonstrate she wasn’t wearing the ring. Then Encylopedia Brown would say she’s lying.

The story would end with: HOW DOES ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN KNOW SHE’S LYING? You could figure it out for yourself, or cheat and turn immediately to the answer section in the back. (What would I do? Ain’t tellin.) And it would be something like: “Her hands were smooth. Encyclopedia Brown knew that if she’d REALLY been washing dishes for the past hour, her fingers would have been wrinkled from the water.”

Sometimes I think the real hero of those stories wasn’t Encyclopedia Brown, but whatever prosecutor had to eventually get a conviction based on the evidence. “How do we know she was the thief? Well, a 10-year-old boy noticed that her fingers weren’t wrinkled. Therefore, she COULDN’T have been inside washing dishes when the theft occurred as she claimed and … uh … yeah. That’s basically all I got. Hey! Your Honor! Did you get the Superbowl tickets I sent you?”

OK, so it wasn’t exactly “The Wire.” You don’t read boy detective stories for their gritty realism. And Sobol inspired countless kids over the years to read. That’s an honorable legacy if I ever heard one.

By the way — Encyclopedia Brown’s nickname derived from the fact that he was so smart and well-read, he was like a walking encyclopedia. How about that? The smart, well-read kid was the hero in Sobol’s books. Another point in his favor.

These days, the kid would probably be named Wikipedia Brown, and he’d solve the mysteries with unfounded assertions about Ron Paul. What can I say? It’s a different world.


I go to the Gaithersburg Book Festival in search of enigmatic and reclusive science fiction author Scott Pruden. Weirdness ensues.

Yikes! Just realized it’s been a while since I posted. I was sick for the last week, which kind of took me out of commission. Before that, I was busy rehearsing for a magician/strongman act I did at the Great Labor Arts Exchange in Maryland on June 24.

The GLAE is a national conference devoted to using the arts for activism in general, and for union organizing in particular. I went to it a couple of years ago when I was involved in a labor dispute at the newspaper where I was working at the time, and I thought I’d give it another shot. It ain’t exactly headlining in Vegas, but what the hell. I had a good time. Here’s a video of my act, if you’re interested.